Remmy was feeding livestock about 9:30 in the evening when he felt the ground moving. This is why:
August 31, 1886, Charleston, South Carolina suffered the worst recorded quake in the southeastern US, perhaps all of the east. While seismographs existed at the time, there were none in the US to record the event. The best estimate today is around 7 on the Richter Scale.
It was what is technically known as an intraplate earthquake, meaning that it was not the result of two earth mantel plates rubbing against each other as is the case in most major quakes, especially along the Pacific coast on both sides of the ocean.
Charleston sets well away from the nearest plate interaction, so the quake was caused by some unknown disturbance under the city. Intraplate quakes are being studied, but we still know little about them. We do know the Charleston quake was an up and down motion. That type of movement can cause huge tsunamis, but Charleston was lucky to miss that.
Nonetheless, over 90% of the buildings were damaged, and 60 people were killed. The total population then was about 50,000. The city continues to be in a high risk zone for a future quake of about the same magnitude.
This solid brick building was no match for the quake. The recent 7.0 quake in Haiti left damage much like this.
Some fifty miles of track had to be rebuilt.
Notice the two buildings in the center of the picture are in the street.
Remember that just 21 years earlier Charleston looked like this:
Civil War damage.